Callahan apologizes to wrestling ref who ejected him
Feb 26, 2013 (The Morning Call (Allentown - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan apologized Monday to the referee who ejected him from a high school wrestling tournament over the weekend, a story that media sites across the country picked up.
In an email, Callahan said he should have handled "the incident better no matter how I felt about the calls made during the match" and said he respects that the referee, Dennis Buchman, has "the right to call the match the way he sees it."
"That said, both Mr. Buchman and I agree that this was a minor incident that has become overblown and unfortunately took away from the great effort and dedication shown by the young men who participated in the tournament," Callahan said. "I hope that this will no longer distract from the real issues facing Bethlehem and Northampton County."
Callahan did not return a telephone call seeking a comment.
The eight-sentence statement was sent from Callahan's campaign email, Friends of John Callahan. Callahan announced earlier this month that he will run for Northampton County executive.
The mayor's statement was accompanied by a release from Buchman that said he appreciated Callahan's apology.
"It meant a lot to me and I think it sets a good example for our fans and young athletes involved in sports," he said in the statement.
Buchman said in a telephone interview that he's spent the last day fielding questions from the media.
An Internet search shows that the story stretched beyond the Lehigh Valley. It was carried on the sites of USA Today, network affiliates, a Yahoo sports blog and more.
"I understand the media has a job to do but this has gotten blown out of proportion," Buchman said. "I appreciate the mayor reaching out to me. To me, it's over."
Callahan, one of the Lehigh Valley's most prominent Democrats, was ejected Saturday night from the District 11 wrestling tournament at Liberty High School after shouting at Buchman, a distinguished wrestling referee.
Buchman said Callahan had been screaming the entire time during a bout between wrestlers from Bethlehem's two high schools.
Callahan, father of a Freedom wrestler, said he yelled "That was an awful call" one time during a match after his son's.
The mayor left, but on his way out the door told Buchman he has "rabbit ears," implying the referee is overly sensitive to criticism from the stands.
Whether Callahan raised his fingers above his head to illustrate rabbit ears, as Buchman said, depends on whom you ask. Callahan said he doesn't remember doing that and also never called Buchman a "terrible referee."
Callahan used the phrase rabbit ears in a tweet Saturday night.
"Pretty sad when a wrestling fan can't express displeasure about a call," he tweeted. "Talk about rabbit ears."
The day after his ejection, Callahan said he didn't do anything different than he had done at hundreds of wrestling matches. He wrestled in high school and college and is following his son's wrestling career.
Buchman, of Drums in Luzerne County, doesn't officiate regular-season Lehigh Valley Conference matches and said he had no idea Callahan was a mayor. Buchman was named an Outstanding Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Referee in 2009 and has said he has only kicked out a handful of people in his two decades of officiating.
For now, Callahan's primary opponents for county executive are keeping quiet about the incident. Democrat Lamont McClure, a county councilman, declined to comment. Democrat Glenn Reibman, a former county executive, didn't return a telephone call Monday afternoon.
Staff writer Samantha Marcus contributed to this report.
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